I moved to Canada from Iran 14 years ago, and I did my best to learn as much as I could about my new homeland – new language, new culture, new laws – but nowhere did I come across a reference to freezing rain. Early one morning, I slipped and fell, and I found out all about it. I still remember the cracking sound my head made as it hit the pavement. I thought I was the only one who had learned about this weird phenomenon the hard way until I shared my story with some friends who had recently made Canada their home.
“How many of you knew about freezing rain before moving to Canada?” my friend asked us. “See, none of you knew!”
She had recently moved from Turkey to Canada. She arrived late at my potluck party of 12 people, with a cast on her right hand.
She said, “I heard on the news this morning that there was going to be freezing rain.” “I had never heard of it before. I stepped outside. I looked up at the sky to see if there was ice in the air. All of a sudden, I slipped and fell and began sliding on the steep ground.
I tried to stop myself from hitting the curb by using my hand as a brake, but I broke my wrist.”
“Oh no,” I said, joking to make her feel better. “All your eight little bones?”
“Yes.” She smiled. “All of them.”
Besides the terrible pain, she was worried about her job, which required two healthy hands. The worst part was that she had just been hired two weeks earlier.
I shook my head. “I hate freezing rain.” And I went on to tell the group about my first experience with this weird phenomenon, which had also caused me harm – so much so that I had to take a painkiller twice a day for six months. On the morning when I fell, I was in a hurry to catch the bus. It was very early, and no one was around.
My hands were full of books, and my head hit the icy ground terribly hard. I still remember the cracking sound it made. I thought there had been a car accident nearby, but then I realized it was me.
I felt like someone had hit the back of my head with a baseball bat. For a moment, my skull felt empty, then unbearable pain. I lay there on the sidewalk, stars moving across my field of vision, completely unable to think. Eventually, I tried to get up, but it was too slippery. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I had to crawl along the top of a nearby snowbank. Eventually, I made it home, and I called a taxi to take me to my family doctor. Yes, of course, I had a concussion. That was eight years ago, and I still get sudden fierce headaches.
“No one told us there’s a solution,” I added. “How many of you have bought Ice Tracks to fit onto your shoes? I mean before falling. See, no one, and it is so simple. I bought mine after the accident.”
Another friend – this one from Somalia – nodded. She said, “I think no one has had as dreadful an experience with freezing rain as I have.” Everyone went quiet. “In my homeland, there is no snow or even cold weather. She went on, eight months after moving to Canada, I was six months pregnant with my first child, and I was so excited to start attending English classes for newcomers. I was also on my way to catch the bus in the morning. It was freezing rain, but I had no idea what that meant. I slipped and fell down on my belly.
A stranger called an ambulance because I was bleeding. Unfortunately, I lost my healthy baby boy.”
The room was silent.
“Since then,” my Somali friend went on, “whenever we have a community meeting, I tell everyone my story to make sure no one has the same experience.” She paused. “I wish I had received a pair of ice tracks from the immigration office at Pearson airport when I arrived in Canada. I wish everyone did.”
SHEIDA SHAHRAMIAN is from Iran. She moved to Canada in 2003. In her homeland, she taught art in university and worked as a set designer. She is now working for the Toronto District School Board as a Multilingual Team Leader.